From April this year, older and disabled people have been guaranteed free off-peak local bus travel within their local authority area. The Government provided an extra £350 million in 2006-07 and will provide a further £367.5 million in 2007-08 to fund the extra costs to local authorities. The funding for concessionary fares is provided through formula grant and is unhypothecated; therefore it is not separately identified for each local authority. Expenditure by local authorities on the statutory element of their local concessionary fare schemes entitlement is not held centrally.
There are no current plans to extend the statutory bus concession to other forms of public transport. Local authorities have the discretion to vary their local schemes to include other modes. Many local authorities choose to do so, such decisions being based on their judgment of local need and their overall financial priorities. Any decision to extend the national entitlement would have to be fully funded and would require careful consideration of its full impact on the industry in question.
Initial analysis suggests that the estimated annual cost of extending the statutory minimum to: (a) trams would be in the order of £15 million, (b) local rail around £250 million, (c) domestic ferries, no estimate, and (d) extending to community transport at least £25 million.
The Department is providing an extra £15 million per year to fund a half-fare concessionary coach scheme.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have received about 40 letters from hon. Members as well as letters from members of the public about extending the statutory bus concession to other forms of public transport over the last two years. Ministers and officials, routinely meet with stakeholder groups to discuss concessionary fares policy.